A new poll shows the race to be Calgary's mayor is slowly turning into a one horse race.

The exclusive poll for CTV Calgary and The Calgary Herald was conducted by Leger Marketing last week.

It shows former alderman Ric McIver has opened up a double-digit lead on his closest competitor.

According to the poll, McIver has 43 per cent support from decided voters.

Former television news anchor Barb Higgins received 28 per cent support with Mount Royal University professor Naheed Nenshi polling a distant third with eight per cent.

Liberal MLA Kent Hehr leads the rest of the pack with 4.1 per cent support.

Bob Hawkesworth (3.9%), Craig Burrows (3.6%), Joe Connelly (2.9%), Wayne Stewart (1.8%), Alnoor Kassam (1.4%), Oscar Fech (1.2%), Bonnie Devine (0.8%), Paul Hughes (0.8%), and Jon Lord (0.4%) all polled below four per cent in the survey.

Leger Marketing Vice-President Ian Large believes that with such a large lead, it will be difficult for any of the candidates to unseat McIver at this point in the race.

"Unless there is a real game-changing issue that one of them can get a hold of and really champion as the issue of the day, it is hard to see how one of the remaining candidates can really make a surge," Large said.

"The front-running candidates are far enough ahead of the rest of the pack that the rest of the pack represents no threat."

Large says Naheed Nenshi faces a major challenge because much of his polling strength comes largely from people who don't typically show up on election day.

"Nenshi has a lot of support among young urbanites. He is clearly effective at cultivating that vote. The problem though is that those are exactly the people that don't vote."

University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young thinks it is still too soon to say the race is over yet.

"We still have a month to go, things can happen, there is a big undecided vote and we don't really know the exact distance really between Higgins and McIver because there is a margin of error, a big undecided vote. There is a lot in play here," Young said.

Candidate qualities

With the election featuring high-profile candidates from a number of different backgrounds, respondents were asked what they felt was the number one quality they wanted in a mayor.

The top response was "honesty" at 41 per cent with "business acumen" second at 19.3 per cent and "social awareness" third at 18.9 per cent. Just 6.3 per cent of respondents said "political experience" was the most important quality and even less, 2.6 per cent, said "personality" was most important to them.

Young is surprised voters are ranking the honesty of the candidates so highly above some of the other personality traits.

"Often you see things like that when there has been some sort of scandal in the past," Young said.

Undecided voters

The poll found 44 per cent of Calgarians are still undecided about who they will vote for.

But when the results from voters who are still undecided but leaning towards a candidate are taken into account, McIver still enjoys a double-digit lead.

"There is still not enough to put McIver's position in jeopardy. That's not to say it is impossible. Municipal elections are very short," Large said, noting Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel won his first term in an upset over an incumbent despite a poor showing in some opinion polls.

Gender split

Higgins has more of her support coming from women than men. When both decided and leaning female voters are considered, she has a slight lead over McIver amongst women.

"She has a great deal of support among the women voters, much more than McIver does," Large said. "If she can bring her bring out the vote campaign among women, she might have a good chance of closing the gap."

McIver is winning the male vote in the poll with 47 per cent among decided male voters compared to just 22 per cent of decided men supporting Higgins.


Leger Marketing conducted a telephone survey with 500 randomly selected Calgary residents aged 18 years and older, from September 13 to 16, 2010. The poll is accurate to within +4.4%, 19 times out of 20.

For more on the poll and reaction from the candidates, watch CTV News at 6 Sunday and Monday and read The Calgary Herald on Monday for a look at some of election issues on the minds of voters.

With files from Chris Epp